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17-Year-Old Addresses World Leaders at the UN Earth Summit

17-Year-Old Addresses World Leaders at the UN Earth Summit

 

Written by Chris Tackett

What would you say if given the opportunity to tell world leaders your thoughts on climate change? For 17 year-old New Zealander, Brittany Trilford, that opportunity became a reality this morning at the Rio+20 Earth Summit. Invited to provide the opening speech, Trilford delivered a polite, but stern address to the 130 heads of state and representatives in attendance. Her demand: Do something.

For those of us that recognize the existential threat that human-induced global climate change poses to the future of human civilization, it has become almost unbearable to watch as year after year passes by with little to no action being taken to seriously address the myriad issues that contribute to this crisis.

When you consider the dire consequences of a warming world, as explained in this great presentation by David Roberts, it is no surprise to hear Trilford open her speech by stating the urgency of the situation and her confusion at the inaction of world leaders. Trilford states:

“I stand here with fire in my heart. I’m confused and angry at the state of the world and I want us to work together now to change this. We are here to solve the problems that we have caused as a collective, to ensure that we have a future.

You and your governments have promised to reduce poverty and sustain our environment. You have already promised to combat climate change, ensure clean water and food security. Multi-national corporations have already pledged to respect the environment, green their production, compensate for their pollution. These promises have been made and yet, still, our future is in danger.

We are all aware that time is ticking and is quickly running out. You have 72 hours to decide the fate of your children, my children, my children’s children. And I start the clock now… tck tck tck.”

Trilford’s speech is a symbolic bookend to the speech given by teenager, Severn Suzuki during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. A video of her 1992 speech is embedded at the bottom of this post.

The full text of the Trilford’s speech is below:

Brittany Trilford Speech to UN Rio+20 Summit Opening Ceremony

Tena Koutou from New Zealand. My name is Brittany Trilford. I am seventeen years old, a child. Today, in this moment, I am all children, your children, the world’s three billion children. Think of me for these short minutes as half the world.

I stand here with fire in my heart. I’m confused and angry at the state of the world and I want us to work together now to change this. We are here to solve the problems that we have caused as a collective, to ensure that we have a future.

You and your governments have promised to reduce poverty and sustain our environment. You have already promised to combat climate change, ensure clean water and food security. Multi-national corporations have already pledged to respect the environment, green their production, compensate for their pollution. These promises have been made and yet, still, our future is in danger.

We are all aware that time is ticking and is quickly running out. You have 72 hours to decide the fate of your children, my children, my children’s children. And I start the clock now… tck tck tck.

Let us think back to twenty years ago – well before I was even an inkling in my parents’ eyes – back to here, to Rio, where people met at the first Earth Summit in 1992. People at this Summit knew there needed to be change. All of our systems were failing and collapsing around us. These people came together to acknowledge these challenges to work for something better, commit to something better.

They made great promises, promises that, when I read them, still leave me feeling hopeful. These promises are left – not broken, but empty. How can that be? When all around us is the knowledge that offers us solutions. Nature as a design tool offers insight into systems that are whole, complete, that give life, create value, allow
progress, transformation, change.

We, the next generation, demand change. We demand action so that we have a future and have it guaranteed. We trust that you will, in the next 72 hours, put our interests ahead of all other interests and boldly do the right thing. Please, lead. I want leaders who lead.

I am here to fight for my future. That is why I’m here. I would like to end by asking you to consider why you’re here and what you can do. Are you here to save face? Or are you here to save us?

The 1992 speech by Severn Suzuki at the first Earth Summit in Rio.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.

 

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50 comments

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7:50PM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

Thanks Brittany for having the courage to speak at the world summit on behalf of all the children of the planet. I do salute you and happy for your great effort and hope that our leaders hear the cries of every children from every corner of the world. Just to point out that there's need for action.............better to stop talking but act NOW, not TOMORROW but TODAY. Never know that tomorrow would bring destruction to our mother earth. I lived in a small island state, and climate change is affecting our survival as a nation and as a human being.

4:21AM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

I think it's beautiful that she is so strong and so dedicated. I congratulate her.

4:38AM PDT on Jun 25, 2012

I guess I am more optimistic than some of the people responding here. Changes are being made but it is a slow process. The question is will the changes come in time to save us? We are the generations that wil either be the saviors or villans of the future.

11:14PM PDT on Jun 24, 2012

What can we do? Suggestions: We add self sustainability skills to the school curriculum and long with the dangers of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.
Students need to be aware of the environmental costs of their 'must have' toys. They, in turn, can enlighten their parents/caregivers.
Schools and colleges can offer courses on peaceful demonstrations so our collective voices can be heard.
Our economy is based on consumerism. We are the consumers, the bottom line depends on us. Protest by not buying products that damage our health and the environment.
Every voice is a vote and politicians love power. Get out and vote in the elections, vote for change.
The power to change the world for the better lies within each and everyone of us. Do a little or do a lot but do something to improve this world of ours.

8:51PM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

"They don't care about us" - Michael Jackson 2009

6:07PM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

A couple of points for Brittany:

1. You are 17. That is not a child.
2. How are you going to compensate for the greenhouse gases your flight to Rio produced?
3. Of the trillions of dollars that have been spent on climate change and "green" energy,
how much has been spent on impoverished people?
4. Do you realise that the mainstays of people of your age - mobile phones, iPads, iPhones etc, all use rare earth minerals, the mining of which is killing people in impoverished countries, not to mention polluting the environment?
5. Do your parents drive you around in a car?
6. Do you have air-conditioning in your house?

It is easy to rage against the older generation for perceived harm, much more difficult to actually do something concrete to help.

Words are cheap, as you point out.
What positive action are you taking as an individual, to help?

6:08AM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

Even if we were a rational species and did everything we could to save ourselves right now, we will not be able to stop the monster that we have unleashed. The best we can hope for is that there will be some survivors.
We are already on a 6 degree Centigrade warming course for this century. That is curtains for most of our descendants and their children.
Still, every effort should be made to ensure that there are some survivors and that life doesn't have to start from scratch again.
Good on you Brittany! keep fighting global warming all your life! Maybe we will be able to rein it in. Where there is still life, there is hope.
please check out: beyondzeroemissions.org

1:14AM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

Viva Brittany, if only they will listen to you. What is the point of all these talks? They never get anywhere. All a lot of hot air which causes more pollution. All the money spent hosting them and sending delegates to them and the carbon footprint must be huge. Scrap them all and use the money to advance the work that people on the ground are already doing.

12:19AM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

A beautiful and heartfelt speech Brittany, you should be proud and you do your country proud. I am proud to be from New Zealand; for a small country they sure know how to stand up for what is right. I am embarrassed to say I live in Canada one of the worst right now regarding climate change, democracy and valuing the environment. I hope our Prime Minister was listening to you and will with all the other decision makers actually listen, understand and do something about it. Most have children so one would wonder, why not? Thank you so much!

10:50PM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Good job Brittany, may they listen and act.

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